A friend of mine is going through a divorce and as far as divorces go it's a "pretty good one" she says. They've agreed on just about everything from the custody arrangement to who walked away with the vinyl collection. "Matt's a good guy; I just couldn't please everyone. In the end he said I loved the kids more," she quipped between piping hot sips of English Breakfast tea.
I listened and wondered, did she really love the kids more? Did Matt see his wife's love as a limited resource? Did Matt feel in competition with his own kids?
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When I stumbled upon Disney Family.com's article, Do Good Moms Make Bad Wives?, I wondered why the divide between romantic and paternal love exists at all. They don't feed from the same pool, unless we reduce the argument to a very basic question of time and energy. Are moms now expected to feel guilty for providing energy to the children who need them? While I understand husbands need attention too, they're grown and hopefully the well-adjusted result of a mother who offered them attention during their pivotal years. Shouldn't husbands, being the fathers they are, appreciate the energy their wives bestow on their children?
Babble blogger Casey Mullins took a stand against the DDB Mother's Day Study that claimed 75 percent of mothers admit loving their children more than their husbands. Casey admitted, "I admit to being in the 25% - not in that I love my husband more than my kids, but I certainly don't love one more than the other. More so, the love I feel for each of them is dramatically different yet both overpowering and sometimes frightening." I can't help but agree with Casey; motherhood and marriage needn't be a "one or the other" sort of thing. They're simply too different to compare.
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While it's true that motherhood does a rather comprehensive job of exhausting our time and energy (and libido), we'll eventually reclaim elements of the time, energy, libido lost as our children grow…at least I think - er - hope we will.
I've written enough about love and marriage to know that the health and longevity of marriage depends on priority. While some may argue that preservation of the family unit is contingent upon marriage taking the top spot, others such as myself find the notion wildly impractical. Is it really such a bad thing for marriage to earn a silver medal sometimes? It still places. It still matters. My marriage has always been a priority in my life but its rank between first and second place ebbs and flows with practical fluidity. Sometimes my kids need me more. Sometimes my husband needs me more. Hell, sometimes I need me more.
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I happen to believe motherhood has made me a better wife, just as fatherhood changed my husband for the better. Is that to say I've remained at the top of my spouse's priority list over our last 10 years as parents? No, sometimes the kids need him more. It makes sense; I'm a big girl and they're little boys.
Maybe there doesn't need to be a distinction between who loves who more, and who gets more attention. Maybe a mom and dad can agree that their children need them more sometimes. Maybe a husband and a wife can agree their marriage isn't threatened by that need. And maybe, just maybe, there's no shame in a marriage earning silver when your kids are taking home the gold.
Which comes first in your marriage, your husband or your kids?
- By Lori Garcia
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